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Basic Questions and Answers About Hepatitis B

October 23, 2015

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Pregnancy and Hepatitis B

Are Pregnant Women Tested for Hepatitis B?

Yes. When a pregnant woman comes in for prenatal care, she will be given a series of routine blood tests, including one that checks for the presence of Hepatitis B virus infection. This test is important because women infected with this virus can pass Hepatitis B to their babies during birth. But this can be prevented by giving the infant HBIG and the first Hepatitis B vaccine at birth, and then completing the series.


What if a Pregnant Woman Has Hepatitis B?

If a pregnant woman has Hepatitis B, she can pass the infection to her baby during birth. But this can be prevented through a series of vaccinations and HBIG for her baby beginning at birth. Without vaccination, babies born to women with Hepatitis B virus infection can develop chronic infection, which can lead to serious health problems.


How Does a Baby Get Hepatitis B?

A baby can get Hepatitis B from an infected mother during childbirth.


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Can a Baby Be Protected From Getting Hepatitis B From His or Her Mother During Birth?

Yes, almost all cases of Hepatitis B can be prevented if a baby born to an infected woman receives the necessary shots at the recommended times The infant should receive a shot called Hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) and the first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth. Two or 3 additional shots of vaccine are needed over the next 1-6 months to help prevent Hepatitis B. The timing and total number of shots will be influenced by several factors, including the type of vaccine and the baby's age and birth weight. In addition, experts recommend that the baby get an antibody test 1-2 months after completion of the vaccine series at age 9-12 months to make sure he or she is protected from the disease. To best protect your baby, follow the advice of his or her doctor.


What Happens if a Baby Gets Hepatitis B?

Most newborns who become infected with Hepatitis B virus do not have symptoms, but they have a 90% chance of developing chronic Hepatitis B. This can eventually lead to serious health problems, including liver damage, liver cancer, and even death.


Do Babies Need the Hepatitis B Vaccine Even if a Pregnant Woman Does Not Have Hepatitis B?

Yes. The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants. CDC recommends that the infant get the first shot before leaving the hospital.


Why Is the Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommended for All Babies?

Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all babies so that they will be protected from a serious but preventable disease. Babies and young children are at much greater risk for developing a chronic infection if infected, but the vaccine can prevent this.

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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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